Adverse Childhood Experiences Common in Military Men

John Blosnich, Ph.D., M.P.H., Post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Interview with:
John Blosnich, Ph.D., M.P.H.,
Post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion
Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Blosnich: I think there are two main findings from our study:

First, since the beginning of the All-Volunteer U.S. military in 1973, there has been a shift in childhood experiences among men who have served in the military.

Second, the childhood experiences of women who have served in the military have been largely similar across the Draft and All-Volunteer Eras.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Blosnich: Yes. We started the study thinking that we might see differences in adverse childhood experiences between military and non-military experienced populations. However, we did not expect to identify the observed differences between those who served during and after the Draft era. There were only two differences in adverse childhood experiences between men with and without military service in the Draft Era. However, the number and magnitude of differences among men in the All-Volunteer Era was quite unexpected. Men with military service in the All-Volunteer Era had higher prevalence of all 11 items in the adverse childhood experiences inventory than men without military service during this same time period.

It was also surprising that differences among women with and without history of military service were fairly consistent across the time periods.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Blosnich: From research reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is evidence that adverse childhood experiences are related to many poor health outcomes in adulthood, including an increased risk for depression, substance use, and suicidal behavior. Knowing a patient’s trauma history may be an important part of understanding risks to individual health, but the associations between adverse childhood experiences and adverse outcomes have not been definitively established in military populations. Traditionally, research has shown that those who serve in our nation’s military have better health than those without comparable service history.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Blosnich: What we found in our study is a signal, and it’s a signal that creates more questions than it answers. For example, even though there is a higher prevalence of childhood adversity among men with military service history, we do not yet know if these negative early life experiences affect their health as adults. It is possible that enlistment in the military represents factors that may diminish or completely mitigate the impact of these earlier experiences. Moreover, it is possible that the education, training, structure, and fellowship of the military may help to buffer those negative early life experiences. At this point, we need further research to pursue answers to those questions.


John R. Blosnich, Melissa E. Dichter, Catherine Cerulli, Sonja V. Batten, Robert M. Bossarte. Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Individuals With a History of Military Service. JAMA Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.724


Last Updated on January 7, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD